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March 6, 2021

Visas of around 34,000 migrant students in UK revoked

Top Story

March 6, 2021

Barrister Rashid Ahmed. file photo

LONDON: Nearly 34,000 international students were affected unfairly when the Home Office revoked visas of students on the basis of misleading and confused evidence, a court has heard.

Both the president and the vice-president of the Upper Tribunal heard legal arguments for three days on behalf of thousands of students that the UK Home Office relied on “unreliable” evidence while accusing nearly 34,000 international students of cheating in English language tests in the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC).

The UK Home Office started controversial action after the BBC’s Panorama in 2014 revealed in an investigation that cheating was widespread in some colleges where candidates sat the Toeic to prove their English language proficiency --- a visa requirement by the Home Office.

The action against the Home Office centers around arguments of the students and their lawyers that while there might have been some abuse of the system but this was unfair and disproportionate to target 60,000 plus students on the basis of evidence that was questionable on its strength and credibility.

The ETS issue has been ongoing since 2014 where upwards of 60,000 visas were cancelled by the Home Office and thousands of migrants have been removed by the UK government in the aftermath. Those affected include thousands of students mainly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and African nations, including those who have been removed and who are eagerly awaiting the outcome of this Test Case.

Barrister Rashid Ahmed, specialist in public and human rights law and Barrister Zeeshan Raza of Two Kings Bench Walk represented one of the appellants in the Educational Testing Service (ETS) deception case.

In their representations, Barrister Rashid Ahmed and Zeeshan Raza submitted to the President that the fundamental issue has always been with the quality of the Secretary of State’s evidence and whether the government is able to discharge the burden of proof in alleging deception against any given individual.

Both Barrister Rashid Ahmed and Zeeshan Raza argued before the president and vice-president of the Upper Tribunal that the evidence relied upon by the Home Office is infected by multiple shortcomings to the extent that it cannot be said that any individual has a case to answer when ETS deception is raised.

The court has heard that the genuine affected students were led with no remedy as a result of the actions of the Home Office.

Campaigners have said that the whole exercise was a scandal as 2,468 of those who were branded “cheats” had been forcibly removed from the UK; the removal action is continuing and over 4,000 of those who were accused of cheating had been granted leave to remain and hundreds are involved in legal challenges against the Home Office. Barrister Rashid Ahmed explained that before the Upper Tribunal, he had argued the case of Indian citizen, her leave was refused on the alleged ground that the appellant had submitted fraudulently obtained documents/dishonesty. “This was predicated on the previous use of a TOEIC English language certificate.”

Barrister Rashid Ahmed said that the Home Office has failed to establish fraud by the students.

The lawyer said: “Migrant Voice was given permission to intervene. The government instructed a QC to represent her interest. The judgment is reserved. The judgment is likely to have wide consequences for any individual affected by the issue.”